Born Yvonne Jasme, Connie Haines began singing and dancing at an early age. Her first break came in 1935, at age 14, when she won an amateur contest on Fred Allen’s NBC radio program. During the late 1930s, under variations of her real name, she worked with orchestras around the Miami, Florida, area before heading north, where she briefly sang with the house band at the famous Meadowbrook in New Jersey. She also worked with Howard Lally’s orchestra.
Haines excelled at jazzier numbers and early on was labelled as a “blues singer,” which in those days meant “jazz singer.” In early 1939, Harry James heard her rehearsing at a New York music publishing company and hired her for his band, changing her name. The James orchestra was still new at the time and struggling to find popular success, and Haines made little of a splash with the public or James himself. Starting in June 1939 she was joined on the bandstand by a young Frank Sinatra, who quickly began to earn a reputation as a top singer. Haines had left James by September and returned to solo work.
When Anita Boyer quit Tommy Dorsey in March 1940, Dorsey hired Haines to take her place, and she once again joined Sinatra on the stand. With a vocal staff that also included Jo Stafford and the Pied Pipers, Dorsey’s band from 1940 to 1942 was one of the most popular in the nation, giving Haines the spotlight she needed to capture the public’s ear. In 1941, she was named eighth most popular female band vocalist in Billboard magazine’s annual college poll. She placed tenth in 1942.
Falling ill while Dorsey’s orchestra was on the West Coast in March 1942, Haines took a temporary leave of absence. That leave soon became permanent when she stayed in Hollywood after the band went east. Haines did not lack for work. She quickly signed with the NBC Blue network, where she became featured vocalist on the program Music by Dant in April. She made several soundies for RCM over the spring and summer and provided vocals for Gordon Jenkins’ orchestra on the brand-new Capitol label. She also appeared on both Meredith Willson’s summer fill-in radio program and on the series Your Blind Date. In September 1942, she landed the spot as featured vocalist on Abbott and Costello’s new NBC Blue radio program. She remained with the show for four years.
Haines signed with United Artists in December 1942 for the upcoming star-studded film Stage Door Canteen, though she ultimately did not appear in the patriotic war-time extravaganza. She had appeared in two films with Dorsey’s band, but it wasn’t until 1944 when she made her solo screen debut with Universal as one of the singers in Moon Over Las Vegas and as one of the main characters in Twilight on the Prairie. Haines also appeared as a singer with Freddie Rich’s band in the 1944 Monogram musical A Wave, a WAC and a Marine.
In early 1945, Haines became part of singer Andy Russell’s new Blue Network show but soon left after Russell refused to give her equal billing. Haines also toured heavily on the theater and night club circuit, sometimes on her own but also as part of Abbott and Costello’s stage show. She left the comedy duo’s radio program in January 1946, reportedly going to New York for a Broadway show, though that appears to not have happened. She inked with the Mercury label that same month.
Haines toured with Mickey Rooney’s stage unit in November and December 1946. She and Rooney appeared together on the cover of Down Beat’s January 1, 1947 issue. In February 1947, Haines cut ten sides with the Page Cavanaugh Trio on Standard Transcriptions. In August, she completed a highly successful run at Ciro’s in Hollywood and then joined Frankie Laine’s show at the Paramount in New York. She signed with the Signature label in October.
Though she denied doing so, Haines began to change her style in 1948, with reviewers suggesting that she was trying to emulate Lena Horne. The change proved effective, giving her better commercial appeal. She again appeared on the cover of Down Beat magazine, alone this time, for their April 21, 1948, issue, highlighting her current tour. In mid-1948, she joined Vaughn Monroe’s network radio show as a regular, finishing out the season. In late 1948, Haines became a regular on Slapsy Maxie’s NBC radio show and again worked as part of Laine’s stage show at the Paramount in October and November. When her Signature contract ended in early 1949, she inked with Decca as part of its new Coral label. Haines made her first television appearances in 1949, teamed with the Page Cavanaugh Trio. Their act appeared on ABC’s Hollywood House, starring Jim Backus, and on their own fifteen-minute, five-night-a-week NBC musical program. She earned a third Down Beat cover on May, 6, 1949.
1950s and Beyond
Haines made her last film appearance in MGM’s 1950 Esther Williams-Van Johnson vehicle Duchess of Idaho. Happy with her work, MGM assigned her the lead in the upcoming Mickey Rooney musical The Strip, which was schedule to begin shooting in November. The part, however, eventually went to Sally Forrest.
In early 1951, Haines appeared on ABC television’s Hollywood Theater. That September she married test pilot Major Robert DeHaven and semi-retired, deciding to concentrate on television and recordings. Her semi-retirement seemed more of an illusion, however, as she continued to tour, including overseas with the USO. In summer 1952, she made several guest shots on television and in 1954 began appearing on Frankie Laine’s fifteen-minute television program, broadcast over CBS. She remained with Laine’s show through at least 1956. Haines was announced for two film roles in 1954, one of them starring with Laine, but neither panned out. Guild Films, who produced the Laine program, also intended to give Haines her own show, scheduled for summer 1955, though it does not appear to have been produced.
Also in 1954, Haines teamed with singers Beryl Davis, Della Russell, and actress Jane Russell to raise money for the Youth for Christ organization. Calling themselves Four Girls, they recorded spirituals on Coral, with the song “Do Lord” turning into a minor hit. Della Russell later dropped out of the act and was replaced by actress Rhonda Fleming. The group made the rounds on television and radio in 1954. In 1956, the four women began singing popular songs as well. Haines, Davis and Jane Russell recorded an album on Capitol in 1957. The album included a mix of religious and popular tunes.
Haines recorded on the RCA Camden label in 1956 and on Tops in 1957. In April 1958, she signed as part of the upcoming George Jessel’s Show Business program. It wasn’t to be, however, as Haines suffered a crippling condition which sidelined her for more than a year. Soon after learning she was pregnant with her second child, she began experiencing pain and became unable to walk. X-rays showed that her hip bones had separated and one was twisting her spinal chord. She felt no pain so was unaware of what was happening. She was confined to bed throughout her pregnancy and for thirteen months after. She re-emerged in late 1959, recording on Dot in 1960.
In October 1961, Haines co-hosted Hollywood’s Answer to Communism, a three-hour television program broadcast on the West Coast, which featured a religious theme. Aside from her solo work, Haines also continued to perform with Russell and Davis as a trio from 1962 until 1965, when Davis left the group. Haines toured and appeared on television regularly during the 1960s. In 1966, she recorded on the Motown label, backed by a Detroit sound.
Deeply religious, Haines became a Unity minister in August 1975 and led a singing ministry alongside her performance as a pop artist. She continued to perform and record through the 1990s. By the late 1970s, she had become entangled in the big band nostalgia wave currently sweeping the nation and often toured as part of packaged big band shows.
Haines divorced DeHaven in 1962. A series of life-threatening illnesses plagued her for the rest of her life. Connie Haines passed away in 2008.
Haines’ birth surname was often spelled “JaMais” or “'Ja Mais” in later years, though in earlier mentions it was listed as “Jasme”. ↩︎
A 1977 article on Haines, using her supplied bio, reports that she began appearing with her father in minstrel shows at age 4, and that she had her own radio show by age 10. It also says she was singing with Charlie Barnet’s band by age 12, which would have been impossible as Barnet didn’t form his first band until late 1933, and Haines isn’t mentioned as a vocalist. Haines also said that she had “joined” Fred Allen’s show by age 14, which she never did. She simply won the talent contest. Haines, liked many singers of the era, embellished her bio. Haines at the time had just released her autobiography. ↩︎
Haines joined James sometime between early April and June 1939. ↩︎
In the aforementioned 1977 article, Haines claimed that she left James when the band broke up, which it didn’t, and that she was the number one girl singer in the nation while with Dorsey, which she wasn’t. ↩︎
Haine’s illness was described by Down Beat magazine as a “nervous disorder which caused severe headaches.” ↩︎
Both films starred Vivian Austin in the female lead and included future Mousketeer Jimmy Dodd and future Gunsmoke star Milburn “Doc” Stone. Fellow Gunsmoke star Glenn Strange also appeared in Twilight on the Prairie as did Jack Teagarden’s band. ↩︎
Rich led the orchestra on Abbott and Costello’s radio program. The film also featured fellow Abbott and Costello cast member Elvia Allman. ↩︎
Russell’s show also included Mel Tormè and his Mel-tones. ↩︎
Haines, the Page Cavanaugh Trio, and Andy Russell were all managed by Bullets Durgom, which is why they all often worked together. ↩︎
One sources also says that Haines and the Cavanaugh Trio appeared in a series of marine recruitment shows for ABC. How this ties in with their other television appearances in 1949 is unknown. The named network may be a mistake, or perhaps they had different shows on each network. ↩︎
Della and Jane Russell were not related. Della was the wife of Andy Russell. ↩︎
Haines charged DeHaven with cruelty, claiming he was sarcastic and belittled her in front of her friends and family. She also testified that he locked the refrigerator door when her mother was in the house. ↩︎